Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has said that her public dialogue platform will be launched next week, as anti-government protests surpass the 100-day mark.
Ahead of the weekly Executive Council meeting on Tuesday, she told reporters that dialogue platforms will be launched in three forms, including a version in which residents can take part. Each session will host up to 200 participants, with the first one beginning next week.
The other forms include a dialogue platform whereby citizens will be randomly selected, as well as a section for deeper conversations with different sectors.
“I can assure you that this is not a sort of one-off gimmick-type of function. It is intended to be organised on a sustainable, and perhaps long-term, basis,” she said.
Hong Kong has seen over three months of demonstrations and unrest triggered by the soon-to-be-withdrawn extradition bill, which would have allowed case-by-case fugitive transfers to mainland China. Large-scale peaceful protests have morphed into sometimes violent displays of dissent over Beijing’s encroachment and alleged police brutality.
Lam first proposed dialogues last month, but details were only revealed on Tuesday. She said it was because it took time to design the platforms.
When Lam visited an elderly home last week, protesters appeared outside the event as riot police guarded the door: “Even if the direct dialogue next week will cause the same scene, my colleagues and I will have adequate mental preparation,” she said.
It is unclear where the dialogues may take place, or who will be involved.
Weeks of unrest
Responding to violent scenes on Sunday night from protesters and pro-government counter-protesters, Lam said she condemned all forms of violence. She also denied all claims of selective arrests and prosecutions.
“Our condemnation is not politically driven. In the same way, police arrests and subsequent prosecution by the Department of Justice in an impartial manner are not politically driven,” she said.
Asked if she will respond to the demands of peaceful marchers on Sunday, Lam said some demands were against Hong Kong’s core values, including the demand that arrested protesters be given amnesty: “We hope to look forward to using the dialogue platform to handle Hong Kong’s deep level issues,” she said.
More protests have been planned for the weekend, including a proposed “reclaim” Tuen Mun park protest, and a sit-in at Yuen Long MTR station on Saturday to commemorate the July 21 mob attacks against passengers.
In recent days, protesters have also been forming human chains and singing “Glory to Hong Kong” – a popular protest anthem – on streets and in malls.
Democratic Party Chair Wu Chi-wai said it was “shameless” for Lam to continue launching “small-circle dialogues,” instead of taking responsibility and responding to public demands.
Citing a recent survey, Wu said that the vast majority of the public wanted an independent commission of inquiry into the protests and police behaviour. “But this is not even on Lam’s agenda,” Wu said.
Major pro-democracy parties have said they will not participate in Lam’s talks with district councillors scheduled on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, rating agency Moody’s and Fitch have downgraded Hong Kong’s rating outlook from stable to negative.
In response, Lam said she was disappointed, but added that ongoing social unrest would inevitably have an adverse effect on international perceptions of Hong Kong’s business environment.
“Hong Kong is undergoing a very difficult situation. Sanctions or punishment are not going to lift Hong Kong out of this very difficult situation,” she said.
Lam confirmed reports that the government had sought advice from international public relations firms, but the advice given was that “the time is not right” amid ongoing protests.
“But sooner or later we will have to do it. Because I have every confidence in Hong Kong’s fundamentals… the time will come for us to launch a major campaign to restore some of the damage done to Hong Kong’s reputation as a result of what has happened in the last few months,” she said.
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